Monday, March 1, 2010

5.3.3: ePortfolios making guides, or directors?

Article: Miller, R., and Morgaine, W. (2009). The benefits of e-portfolios for students and faculty in their own words. Peer Review 11(1), 8-12.

Miller and Morgaine (2009) describe how ePortfolios can be applied at all levels of higher education, "From matriculation [that is, enrolment] to graduation" (p.8). Their work collected statements from ePortfolio users, so that the "common benefits of well-run e-portfolio programs" could be explained in the words of users themselves.

The authors' perspective on the potential for ePortfolios is nicely captured in this quote (2009, p.12):
As students enter college, most do not imagine being responsible for their own learning. They believe that, somehow, teachers make them learn or, in some cases, prevent them from learning. Many even see assignments, required courses, and exams as obstacles to get around on the way to their ticket to the future—the degree. While there has been talk for many years about professors moving from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side,” e-portfolios are developing as a teaching/learning context where this is likely to happen. The practices associated with e-portfolio—e.g., designing “authentic” assignments, using engaging and active pedagogy, periodic self-, peer- and teacher-formative assessments, and requiring students to reflect on their learning—help to move both professors and students into a teacher/learner relationship where “guiding” really works.
ePortfolios, then, have the potential to edge formal education toward a less didactic form of education. The benefits they cite from respondents seem to confirm the role of ePortfolios in:
  • encouraging metacognition;
  • helping students to link their learning experiences to course outcomes;
  • assisting students to perceive the integrative nature of formal education outcomes;
  • providing a flexible platform for learning activities across a student's learning journey;
  • helping students come to "the very powerfuil realization that going to college is about more than the degree" (p.10).
I particularly like this quote: "Reflection is like panning for gold, finding the valuable nuggets from among the gravel of day-to-day campus experiences" (p.10).

The shift to 'guide on the side' is explicitly stated in the quotation taken above however the accounts from faculty themselves imply a more directive role (from 'guide on the side' to
'director setting the vector'...?) Student comments mentioned the value of structured expectations and one specifically credited her professor as making valuable and directive suggestions... on p.11 the article concedes that "Faculty, of course, are responsible for designing and assessing the assignments that may be included in students' e-portfolios". So, perhaps the term 'guide' in this sense needs to be understood in the context of students exploring a landscape whose landmarks are already established.

The article is recommended as a good introductory commentary on the potential for ePortfolios.

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